A Rare Gift


“When someone is truly listening, you feel it; when someone pretends to listen, you know.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh

British television network ITV’s Christmas commercial illustrates the fact that very few people listen effectively.  The message at the end of the video rings true.   “After the last couple of years, we all need an ear.  Give someone yours this Christmas.”

As we hustle around trying to find the perfect gifts this Christmas, we would do well to share with others the much sought-after gift of listening.  Poet John Fox, founder of The Institute for Poetic Medicine, composed the poem “When Someone Deeply Listens to You.” It is one of his best-known poems and captures the profound generosity of listening.


When someone deeply listens to you

it is like holding out a dented cup

you’ve had since childhood

and watching it fill up with

cold, fresh water.

When it balances on top of the brim,

you are understood.

When it overflows and touches your skin,

you are loved.

When someone deeply listens to you

the room where you stay

starts a new life

and the place where you wrote

your first poem

begins to glow in your mind’s eye.

It is as if gold has been discovered!

When someone deeply listens to you

your bare feet are on the earth

and a beloved land that seemed distant

is now at home within you.

-John Fox


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